She slips into Tennessee under cover of darkness, stretches bare limbs in exaggerated languor, sighs once for old times and new, then spreads out to nuzzle and cuddle us all together at once--raising temperatures, lowering ambitions, distracting and beguiling all she touches.
How does Springtime do that? Maybe it's different for each of us. For me she starts as a feeling, a humming that rises into the audible range to become a whisper--just a suggestion on the west wind of warmer days blowing in. Soon a great greening is crowding out grays of winter, covering patches of earth, disguising sticks and stones and old bones with grass nearly too luminous to look at. Springtime could never completely cover the scars and blemishes on this our rugged land--how could she?
But she does bring perspective. Hers is the point of view of eternity, hers the constant chorus of life--a great green, yellow and purple song that rises in the land, stirring roots and tubers and shrubs, waking up a billion trees that sprout such alchemical green longings that nature herself becomes a great climactic shout of life. Hear it washing across knobs and ridges and foothills, reaching up to caress Rich Mountain, Bluff Mountain, House Mountain, Chilhowee, Cross, Cove, the Sugarlands, Chimneys and LeConte, as if reaching to heaven.
Here, there and yonder you notice Springtime, feel her warm touch, sample her aromas--in yards and fields, ponds and creeks, ballparks and squares, and all the gardens and copses as dogwoods and redbuds bloom out. The weeping willow in my yard—so recently a threadbare mop--has become a tower of cascading emerald tresses.
But now I have to shut up about her. Enough already. Name the writer in these parts who hasn't done damage to their reputation by spending too much verbiage on Springtime. She'll flat ruin you if you're not careful for there's no way to fully sing her praises hereabouts without making yourself sound silly and florid as a sophomore English major. Go ahead. Try stringing three paragraphs together about spring flowers and see how quickly you blush. Best turn to the deceptively mundane.
Take last Saturday, a day brimming with work to get done. I press into service my son Justin, 16 now and towering over me (how did that happen?). We're having friends over for a birthday party later that night in honor of his sister Alexis, 26 (how did that happen?). Her brother Travis will be home from college (and that?).
“Hey Dad, could you help me swap out the basketball goal?” Justin asks. And I'm thinking yeah, the old one's been broken for years, do his thing first, start on this note of harmony. And so we're out there with wrenches and pliers and chairs and WD-40 and a ladder, grunting and straining together as the comings and goings of others make casual music around us. And as we thread the new net onto the rim I wake up to the day and realize--as I do from time to time--that this is about as much of heaven as I'd ever want, this practical communion with people I love here in this natural garden we call Tennessee.
Afterwards, he beats me in a quick game of around-the-world and we move on to other things. Pull the fallen bridge-railing out of the creek, get the lawnmower running, mow, take down an old satellite dish, pack away the tattered archery target, pick up litter, prune excessive branches. Once we get going I don't want to stop and leave the outdoors behind.
Later that evening, as friends gather on our front porch, I find myself recounting a story from a distant season. One morning when Alexis was 6 or 7, as I drove her to school, savoring our time together, she looked up at me seriously and said, “Daddy, I've decided to change my name.”
“You have?” I turned off the radio.
“Yes. From now on I want you to call me Beauty Heart Sparkle Swan.”
For such moments was springtime fashioned.
Yesterday, as this is written, I spent all day driving around chasing errands. It was a glorious day, but my mind wouldn't stay in the moment, for a drive into springtime is not just a drive over green hills where redbud glows purple and dogwood spangles the yard, and forsythia and quince splash fountains of color across the land. No, a drive into Springtime is a ride into yearnings for yesterdays and tomorrows and the timelessness of the present. She's here now, in all her fancy regalia.